Looking back on the year 2020, I would like to take a moment to review and reflect on the various books I read throughout the past year.
Every year, I try to read as many books as I can in one calendar year. My goal is to read as many, or more, books as the year before.
For the last couple of years, I’ve tried to read only one book at a time so I could focus on one topic, then move onto the next. Those guardrails helped me read, and retain, more throughout the year. Now that I am more disciplined when it comes to setting aside time for reading, I have adjusted those parameters and I now often find myself with two books going at once. My problem in the past is that there were a lot of books I wanted to read, so I’d partially read a lot of books, but finish very few. My reasoning for going back to multiple books at once has changed this year.
In 2020, I found myself waiting in the car a lot. I did a lot more grocery store pickups, more waiting in parking lots for food orders to be brought out, waiting in the car at the dentist to be called in for my appointment, etc. This past year brought about a lot of strange changes. Sitting in parking lots for long periods of time was one of them. The advantage of this is that I had a lot more time to read. My solution was to keep a book in the glove box! That helped me pass the time, as well as increase my books read per year count.
With so many stores and businesses shut down, gatherings cancelled, and events postponed, I anticipated that I would have a lot of time to spend reading books in 2020. I figured with “stay at home” orders and no businesses opened to visit anyway, the only thing I would have to do all day was sit around and read. That was determined to be a lie! I did spend a lot more time at home, but so did my kids. Therefore, I spent a lot more time building castles out of blocks, playing dress up, and distributing snacks than I did reading, and I regret none of it!
I also took some of my own advice from “While I’m Waiting” and tried to use my time wisely by learning new skills such as woodworking, doing some home improvement projects, and making the most of my time with my family. Rather than reading more books this year than the year prior, I focused more on other positive and important tasks. While I read fewer books, I read more of the Bible than I ever have, something I found to be more important than ever.
Anyway, let’s get to the list! The following is a list of all the books I read in 2020, along with a brief summary, and maybe a review, of some of the ones that stood out to me most.
It has become somewhat of a trend to compare the United States to Nazi Germany in recent years. Such comparisons are not always accurate and are used mostly to attack one political figure or praise another. Published over ten years ago, “When a Nation Forgets God” helps the reader recognize similarities between Nazi Germany and America today in a way that presents parallels from the histories of both nations. He presents us with historical facts to explain Germany’s fall from grace and explains the tactics used to gain the support of citizens. Looking back, we find the atrocities caused by the hand of the Nazis to be hard to fathom. We can’t imagine seeing this scenario play out and staying silent about it. Erwin Lutzer reminds us that Adolf Hitler was not always known as a monster. In fact, he had overwhelming support of the people of Germany and was respected throughout the world. We can learn a lot of lessons from the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, one of them being the importance of keeping a close watch on cultural and political shifts that can lead to the abuse of power and the oppression of humans.
“The Line Between” and “A Single Light” were the perfect books to read during the year of a pandemic! I read both of these in early February, before I fully understood the turn of events that would soon come. In this series, a young woman escapes a doomsday cult, only to discover the world has gone mad with a widespread disease, something we are all familiar with by now. Wynter Roth is left wondering if this is the end of the world that she had always been warned about. Is she any better off on the outside of the compound walls? Where did this virus come from? Is there a cure? A highly contagious disease that causes a form of early onset dementia isn’t the only obstacle Wynter and her new companions have to face. There’s also hostility from other people who are fighting to survive the collapse of society brought on by the disease. I could not put these books down! You’ll definitely want to go ahead and get both books at the same time so you can continue on with the story.
Bonus info: The author has eluded that these books are being adapted into a television series!
This series by William R. Forstchen was another perfectly fitting series of books to read in 2020.This series follows John Matherson as he tries to keep his family, and his small North Carolina town, alive after America loses a war within one second. A terrorist attack involving the use of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) knocks out the entire country’s electrical grid and sends everyone back into the dark ages. With no electricity, life changes drastically in an instant. Food shortages quickly cause starvation, otherwise treatable diseases have now become deadly without the luxury of modern medicine, and people are turning on each other in the name of survival. John Matherson steps up to take a leadership role in guiding his community through this totally unexpected crisis and attempts to help them reestablish somewhat of a normal life.
While fiction writing, not a survival guide, these books address several survival topics that could be used in emergency situations. The characters in this story are thrown into situations and events they never even thought to prepare for: food shortages, harsh weather, lack of transportation, self-defense, and even warfare. Reading these books really opened my eyes to just how fragile our luxury-filled lives really are. In the Spring of 2020, and beyond, many areas in the United States were hit with supply shortages of everything from food to toilet paper! Before this year, many Americans probably never considered that they wouldn’t be able to buy meat in a store. The John Matherson series is a wake-up call to all of us to become more prepared and self-reliant.
Pastor Robby Gallaty recounts his personal story of addiction. Drug use plagued Robby’s life, at a fairly young age. His story is different than what you might be imagining. Robby grew up in a loving household with a close and supportive family. They were catholic and attended church every Sunday. After being involved in a car wreck and being put on prescription drugs, Robby quickly became addicted to pain killers and transitioned to street drugs like heroine and cocaine. After blowing through his prescription, he resorted to stealing $15,000 from his parents to continue feeding his drug habit. After hitting rock bottom, going to rehab twice, and relapsing, Robby surrendered his life to Christ.
Robby’s story helps readers have a deeper understanding of the struggles of addiction, including the physical and psychological effect it has on individuals and families. Readers will see substance abuse from a different view when they get a glimpse into the life of an addict. As you read Robby’s story, you may understand that it is much harder than you think to “just quit”.
At the age of nineteen, Christopher Schact decided to leave his home in Germany to travel the world. He wanted to experience all that the world had to offer. Christopher recounts the many incredible experiences he had hitchhiking, sailing, and on foot. He spent four years visiting 45 different countries. To keep his journey going, he worked various jobs to fund his next move. He worked as a sailor, jeweler, au pair, and plenty of other odd and unexpected jobs. His stories will amaze, inspire, and scare you! His trip was far from a vacation. He has lived among drug dealers, indigenous peoples, and even had some scary encounters in the Middle East. During the summer of 2020, when vacationing was just shy of impossible, reading this book was about the closest thing I could get to traveling! Pick up “Around the World on 50 Bucks” and live vicariously through Christopher!
Zombie fanaticism has been around for years, perhaps peaking when “The Walking Dead” series came to AMC. Suddenly everyone was talking about zombies. Even before the huge success of “The Walking Dead” television show, Max Brooks was already on the zombie scene with his books, “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z“. What I liked about “World War Z” was that it was written from the perspective of a journalist, traveling all over the world, interviewing survivors of the “Zombie War”. Each chapter covers a different survivor, from a different country, explaining events that transpired and explains their role in surviving the zombie apocalypse.
I remember walking the aisles of bookstores years ago and flipping through “The Zombie Survival Guide“, but it wasn’t until recently that I took a closer look at the works of Max Brooks. I came across an article online in which Max is talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “The history of pandemics tends to come in extremely predictable cycles.” “World War Z” uses zombies as a metaphor for the SARS virus. Like SARS, the infected victims become the killers. In the article, his book “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” is mentioned and it sounded really interesting. It talks about subjects such as isolation, survival, food shortages, supply chain interruptions, etc. These are all things that people have been dealing with, in one way or another, throughout 2020. I have added that to my reading list for next year!
I make reading through the Bible in a year an annual practice. I talk in detail about finding a manageable Bible reading plan in both “Daily Pursuit” and “My Year in the Bible” so check those out when you have time.
This year I used the Jewish Publication Society’s JPS Tanakh for much of my reading. Since it is a Jewish Bible, it only has the scriptures of what Christians refer to as The Old Testament. I was interested in seeing how a Jewish version of scriptures differed from other translations. For the rest of my reading, I used a mixture of New Living Translation, New International Version, and English Standard Version.
I actually read through the Bible twice this year! I did not intend to read through the Bible two times in one year, but I had already started a reading plan when my wife showed me another one that looked really good. I didn’t want to abandon the plan I had already started, so I decided to buckle down and do both. Like I said before, added downtime in 2020 made this a little more possible.
The second reading plan I did was through a mobile app called “Read Scripture“. It has an easy-to-follow chart to tell you what to read each day. You can also click each day’s reading and read it right on your smart phone, tablet, or other device. This is perfect for reading on the go, in waiting rooms, on car rides, and in my case, the tree stand! My personal favorite feature is the videos provided by The Bible Project! These are a lot of the same videos featured in the Filament enabled Bibles. They do a fantastic job of giving an overview of the book, chapter, or section that you are about to read that day by using informative animated videos. I recommend this app for people on the go who think they don’t have time to read the Bible. You may just find that it is easier than you think, given the right tools.
As usual, I read about a variety of different subjects this year. I like to have variety so I can learn and experience something new. My goal for 2020 was to surpass 2019’s quantity of books read. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to quite reach that goal. However, I am satisfied with my results, given all the craziness of the year. Plus, reading through the Bible twice was no small feat for me, so I am glad to have taken this past year to focus more on scripture. As you probably guessed, I already have a long list of books lined up for 2021!
I hope you find a book or two on this list that interests you. If one of them sparks your interest, I encourage you to pick it up and make time to read this year. I have included links to each book where you can view and purchase it online (through an independently owned bookshop) or in-store. Now, more than ever, I encourage you to #ShopSmall and support the local bookstores in your area. Small businesses are struggling on a scale that most of us can’t even imagine right now. Local bookshops are at great risk of closure, especially Christian bookstores. You may have noticed that Christian bookstores are few and far between recently. Most Christian bookstore have closed their doors in the past few years because they simply couldn’t compete with online retail giants, such as Amazon. The government mandated lock downs and forced closures of small businesses throughout 2020 and beyond have been the final nail in the coffin for many stores. When at all possible, try to seek out local Christian bookstores to support.
What are you reading right now?
What great books of 2020 did I miss? If you have any other book recommendations that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you! I am always looking for new and exciting titles to add to my list!
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